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Busnois: L'homme Arme / Fabris, Maletto, Cantica Symphonia, Et Al

Release Date: 10/27/2009 
Label:  Glossa   Catalog #: 31906   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Antoine BusnoisAnonymous
Conductor:  Giuseppe Maletto
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cantica Symphonia
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BUSNOIS (attr.) Magnificat . L’homme armé Giuseppe Maletto, dir; Cantica Symphonia GLOSSA 31906 (71:49 Text and Translation)

We once heard a program devoted to the six anonymous masses on the tune L’homme armé that are preserved in Naples, BN, Ms. VI.E.40 (14:4). On that disc, Paul van Nevel offered the Sanctus from Mass I, the Credo from Mass II, the Read more Kyrie from Mass III, the Sanctus from Mass IV, the Credo and Agnus Dei from Mass V, and the Credo from Mass VI. Giuseppe Maletto takes a different tack, presenting a Magnificat in the eighth mode and the five movements of Mass VI, all separated by five brief instrumental movements based on short sections of the other five masses. The table of contents refers to “six masses attributed to Antoine Busnois,” and Maletto’s notes are headed “Antoine Busnois (?),” but the cover simply places his name firmly as composer. The Magnificat is found in Rome, BAV, San Pietro Ms. B 80, attributed to Busnois by Charles Hamm in 1960, a work composed entirely in polyphony rather than in the more usual alternatim style.

The six masses present problems of performance, for there are lacunas in the masses. The first page of each Mass is missing, probably because it bore a beautiful illumination that was removed for the pictorial art. The second and third Agnus Dei settings are missing from Mass VI, so they have been newly constructed from the Benedictus of Mass I and the Confiteor of Mass VI. The Kyrie 1 and the Agnus Dei 1 also needed some partial reconstruction, adapted from Judith Cohen’s 1981 edition of the six masses. The attribution of the masses has been a subject of ongoing debate. Maletto cites Judith Cohen (1968) and Richard Taruskin (1986) for the attribution to Busnois, while Michael Long (1992) and Craig Wright (2001) might be added. We know from the manuscript itself that Charles the Bold of Burgundy owned it and sent it to Naples for the wedding of Beatrice, the princess who married King Mathias of Hungary, and Busnois was Charles’s court composer.

The masses form an integral set. Each of the first five uses a fragment of the L’homme armé song as its cantus firmus, while the sixth Mass, recorded here, the only one set for five voices, uses the entire song. (The song appears at the head of the first page of the Naples source.) Craig Wright, in The Maze and the Warrior (Harvard, 2001), provides a detailed account on pages 282–87 of the structure of the six masses. The notes by van Nevel and Maletto are very revealing, indicating why the performances of the sole duplicated movement (Credo VI) are so different. The two discs both use instruments as well as voices, but in the duplicated Credo Maletto uses voices throughout the polyphonic texture while van Nevel (in the first movement as far as Crucifixus) uses one voice on the L’homme armé tune with instruments on the other lines. The two discs are complementary, and both are useful, at least until someone gives us the complete set all at once.

If I had to choose, I’d prefer to hear the single complete Mass on the new disc, but most collectors will want to hear both discs, for even together they still give us less than the whole set of masses. It’s a small point, but Maletto intones the Gloria and Credo, while van Nevel omits the intonation in his three Credo settings. He also assigns the tenor line to instruments, since singing the secular text as it is notated “would be historically improbable,” as he says, departing from van Nevel’s solution. This important disc can be added to the considerable batch of recordings related to the court of Burgundy, the Order of the Golden Fleece, the Feast of the Pheasant, and the various settings of L’homme armé as a cantus firmus. History comes alive here.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber
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Works on This Recording

Magnificat octavi toni by Antoine Busnois
Conductor:  Giuseppe Maletto
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cantica Symphonia
L'homme armé by Anonymous
Conductor:  Giuseppe Maletto
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cantica Symphonia
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 15th Century; France 
Doibt on doubter by Anonymous
Conductor:  Giuseppe Maletto
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cantica Symphonia
D'un haubregon de fer by Anonymous
Conductor:  Giuseppe Maletto
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cantica Symphonia

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